► THIS WEEK IN BALL STATE SOFTBALL: The Ball State softball team returns to action Tuesday, when it travels to Notre Dame for a 4 p.m. game at Melissa Cook Stadium ... The Cardinals will then open both Mid-American Conference action and the home portion of its 2014 schedule Friday with a 1 p.m. doubleheader versus Bowling Green ... Toledo will visit the BSU Softball Complex for single games Saturday (2 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.)
► FOLLOW THE ACTION: Ball State fans can follow this week’s action with live stats available at BallStateSports.com ... Notre Dame will webcast Tuesday’s contest, while WCRD 91.3 FM begins its coverage of Ball State softball with this weekend’s MAC games ... Torey Fox, Jake Bartelson and Alexis Williams will cover the action LIVE from the BSU Softball Complex for WCRD ... Fans can also get regular updates by following the team on Twitter: @BallStateSB - Instagram: ballstatesb - Facebook: BallStateSoftball
► CARDINALS ALL-TIME: The Ball State softball program enters Tuesday’s game at Notre Dame with an 872-926-4 (.485) all-time record in 39-plus seasons of play ... Established as a varsity program in 1975, Ball State has won four Mid-American Conference regular season titles (2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013), two MAC Tournament championships (1998 and 2010) and advanced to the NCAA Tournament twice (1998 and 2010).
► IN THE MAC PART 1: The Ball State softball team is 355-375-1 (.486) all-time in Mid-American Conference action ... The Cardinals best two seasons, based on winning percentage, came in 2009 and 2013 when BSU went 18-3 (.857) ... BSU has claimed four (2009, 2010, 2012 & 2013) of the last five MAC Regular Season titles and won the 1998 and 2010 MAC Tournaments to earn the only two NCAA Regional berths in program history.
► IN THE MAC PART 2: From 2009 through this weekend’s MAC action, the Cardinals have proven to be one of the league’s premier programs by racking up an 83-22 (.790) record in league play ... Kent State has the second-best league record during the span at 68-40 (.630).
► HEAD COACH TYRA PERRY: A two-time Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year (2009 & 2013), Tyra Perry was named the eighth head coach in Ball State softball history Aug. 6, 2013 ... Perry enters Tuesday’s game at Notre Dame with a 360-355-1 (.503) career record, including an 18-11 ledger so far in her first season at Ball State ... Perry’s biggest win so far at Ball State was a 3-0 victory at then-No. 3 Arizona State (March 2) ... Prior to coming to Ball State, Perry had six-year head coaching stints at both Western Kentucky (2008-13) and Birmingham-Southern (2002-07) ... In 2013, Perry guided WKU to the program’s first-ever NCAA Regional appearance and to a final ranking of 26th in the NCAA Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), the highest final ranking in program history ... The Lady Toppers also posted the program’s first 40-plus win season (43-18) under Perry’s tutelage in 2013, and earned its first SBC regular season title with a 20-3 league record.
► SCHEDULE UPDATE: The April 16 single game versus Indiana has been changed to a doubleheader and will now be played at IU’s Andy Mohr Field.
► SCOUTING THE CARDINALS: Ball State enters the week with an 18-11 overall record ... Last weekend, the Cardinals were scheduled to open league play at Buffalo Friday and versus Kent State Saturday and Sunday ... Unfortunately, those games were cancelled due to field conditions and weather ... The Cardinals are the top batting team in the MAC, and rank 14th nationally with a .331 team batting average ... Ball State enters the week leading the league in hits (262), doubles (50), triples (9) and home runs (32) ... BSU’s 91 multiple-base hits are 16 more than the next closest team, Central Michigan at 75 ... In fact, BSU’s 50 doubles are more than the multiple-base hit total for seven of the other 12 league teams ... Individually, sophomore center fielder Briana Evans leads the Ball State offense and ranks second in the MAC with a .407 batting average, while senior third baseman Audrey Bickel is second on the squad and third in the MAC at .382 ... Senior left fielder Jennifer Gilbert enters the week as the league leader in slugging percentage (.831), runs scored (30), RBI (35), home runs (10) and total bases (74) ... In the circle, sophomore Kelsey Schifferdecker owns an 8-4 record and threw the Cardinals’ first complete game shutout of the season versus George Mason (Feb. 16) ... Schifferdecker has a team-leading 4.07 ERA over 75.2 innings of work and has struck out 38 batters.
► RPI UPDATE: Based on the strength of its 18-11 record entering the week, the Ball State softball team was ranked 70th in the first NCAA RPI rankings of the 2014 season ... The Cardinals have played 15 games versus top 100 teams and own a 5-10 record in those games ... BSU’s average RPI loss this season is 37 ... Kent State is currently the highest ranked team in the MAC with a RPI of 45 ... KSU is also 5-10 versus top 100 opponents this season.
► SCOUTING THE FIGHTING IRISH: Notre Dame enters the week with a 20-7 overall record and ranked 24th in the latest ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25 Poll released March 25 ... The recent string of bad weather has also hampered the Fighting Irish, with six of its last seven games cancelled due to weather ... In the lone game played, UND posted a 12-2 (5 inn.) victory over Eastern Michigan March 26 ... Jenna Simon leads the team with a .400 batting average, while Emilee Koerner is UND’s top overall producer with a .356 batting average, 11 doubles, seven home runs and two triples ... Koerner also leads the squad with 28 runs scored and 23 RBI ... Laura Winter is Notre Dame’s ace in the circle, boasting a 14-3 record and a 1.85 ERA over 106.0 innings of work ... Winter has struck out 125 batters while issuing just 16 walks ... As a team, UND is out-hitting its opponents .328 to .225 this season ... Notre Dame also holds a 2.04 to 4.94 edge in team ERA over its opponents.
► SERIES VERSUS NOTRE DAME: The Fighting Irish hold an 8-4 lead in the all-time series which has not seen a game since the 2009 season ... UND has won the last seven games played between the two teams, including a 5-1 victory on its home field March 24, 2009 in the latest game in the series ... Overall, Notre Dame holds a 5-1 edge on its home field, with Ball State’s lone win in Notre Dame, Ind., coming by a score of 5-0 in game one of a April 17, 1994 doubleheader.
► LEADING THE NATION: Jennifer Gilbert enters the week as the NCAA Division I active career leader in RBI (220), runs scored (191), doubles (56) and home runs (66) ... Gilbert’s 220 career RBI are 20 ahead of the next closest player, Alabama’s Kaila Hunt ... Her 66 career home runs are tied with Oklahoma junior Lauren Chamberlain, while her 191 career runs scored are two ahead of Arizona State’s Alix Johnson ... Gilbert’s 56 career doubles are two ahead of Harvard’s Kasey Lange and Louisville’s Katie Keller, and just four more than her Ball State classmate first baseman Taylor Rager at 52 ... Gilbert also entered the week ranked ninth in career slugging percentage (.794), ninth in at bats (651) and seventh in hits (245) among active NCAA Division I players.
► BREAKING THE CANADIAN RECORD: With her fifth-inning, two-run home run over the left-center field wall in Ball State’s 6-4 win over North Dakota State (March 22), Jennifer Gilbert became the NCAA career home run leader among Canadian-born players ... Prior to Gilbert, the title of Canada’s top NCAA softball slugger was held by Jen Yee who racked up 65 career home runs while playing for Niagara (2006-07) and Georgia Tech (2009-10) ... Ironically, Gilbert and Yee are currently teammates on the Canadian Senior Women’s National Team and helped guide the squad to a silver medal at the VII Women’s Pan American Championship (Aug. 10-18) in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
► RACKING UP THE AWARDS: The Ball State softball team continues to dominate the league’s weekly awards, picking up at least one honor in five of its seven weeks of play this season, while sweeping the honors twice (Feb. 10 & March 3) ... Jennifer Gilbert has been named MAC West Division Player of the Week twice this season (Feb. 24 & March 3), while Kelsey Schifferdecker (Feb 10 & 17) and Nicole Steinbach (March 3 & 24) have each picked up a pair of MAC West Division Pitcher of the Week honors ... Senior first baseman Taylor Rager also earned player of the week accolades Feb. 10 ... Last season, the Cardinals had at least one MAC weekly award winner in 10 of its 12 weeks of play, including sweeping the awards five times.
► THE RAGER FACTOR: In addition to being the program’s record holder for career double plays turned at 59, Taylor Rager is also quickly climbing up BSU’s career offensive charts ... Based on the strength of her .363 batting average this season, Rager is currently fourth in program history with a .351 career batting average ... Her 155 career RBI are second in BSU annals, while her 32 career home runs and 52 career doubles are both third.
► WALK IT OUT: Taylor Rager enters the week ranked sixth in MAC history with 99 career walks, including 11 this season ... In addition, senior third baseman Audrey Bickel and Jennifer Gilbert are tied for 16th on the league’s career walks chart at 80 ... Bickel has walked eight times this season, while Gilbert ranks third in the league with 16 free passes ... The only other active MAC players ranked in the top 20 on the league’s career walks chart are Ohio senior Raven King (84) and Miami senior Kayla Ledbetter (83).
► Ball State posted a 3-0 win at then-No. 3 Arizona State March 2, marking the highest-ranked opponent the Cardinals have defeated since a 2-1 victory at then-No. 3 Missouri March 19, 2010.
► Audrey Bickel provided a pair of game-winning RBI during the Cardinals’ last week of action, while leading the team with a .474 batting average, nine hits and nine RBI over the six games ... She blasted her third career grand slam in the win over UMKC (March 22), which was her 20th career home run.
► Of Briana Evans’ team-leading 35 hits this season, 19 have either been infield or bunt singles ... Evans is also tied for fifth in the MAC with eight stolen bases this season.
► Briana Evans leads the league with four triples this season, with all four coming in BSU victories ... Her first triple came in a 7-1 win over Morehead State (Feb. 22) ... Her second came in a 12-0 (5 inn.) win over Alabama A&M (March 14) ... She posted triples in back-to-back games last weekend in wins over North Dakota State (6-4) and UMKC (8-0, 5 inn.) on March 22.
► Junior left fielder Loren Cihlar remains the top base stealer in program history based on percentage, with a .933 (28-for-30) rate of success ... She is 8-for-8 in stolen base attempts this season, earning her first swipe of the year versus Virginia Tech (Feb. 16).
► After serving mainly as a pinch hitter/runner last season, sophomore Emily Dabkowski has stepped nicely into the starting role at second base for the Cardinals in 2014 ... She has reached base safely in 26 of Ball State’s 29 games and owns a team-best 10-game hitting streak starting versus No. 3 Arizona State (March 2) and ending following a single versus No. 23 Auburn (March 15).
► Emily Dabkowski drove in what proved to be the game-winning run versus No. 3 Arizona State (March 2) with a two-out RBI single through the left side in the top of the seventh inning ... She also showed a flair for the dramatic versus Murray State (Feb. 22), blasting an eighth inning walk-off two-run homer over the left-center field wall to give BSU the 5-3 victory.
► Overall, Emily Dabkowski has helped account for nine game-winning runs this season, including scoring the winning run six times and adding three game-winning RBI ... Jennifer Gilbert is second, accounting for seven game winning runs, with six game-winning RBI and one game-winning run scored ... Four of Gilbert’s 10 home runs this season have produced eventual game-winning RBI.
► Taylor Rager enters the week ranked first in the MAC and fifth nationally with 14 doubles this season ... As a team, the Cardinals rank 11th nationally with a 1.72 doubles-per-game average.
► Of the Cardinals’ nine position starters, six are batting .323-or-better this season ... Eight different players have blasted at least one home run for Ball State this season, with Jennifer Gilbert leading the way with 10 and Emily Dabkowski, Taylor Rager and Audrey Bickel following at four each.
► Senior first baseman Lauren Schroeder blasted her fifth career home run to complete the walk-off, run rule victory over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (Feb. 8) ... She added her sixth career home run versus No. 23 Auburn (March 15), which was her first career solo shot ... Of her seven career home runs, three have been three-run blast, two have been two-run shots, while another was a walk-off grand slam to cap last season’s run rule of Butler (April 9, 2013).
► Ball State’s defense tallied three double plays at the Mizzou Tournament, raising its season total to 14 ... The 14 double plays have the Cardinals ranked first in the league and 15th nationally with a 0.48 double plays-per-game average ... Last season, Ball State ranked fourth nationally with a 0.56 double plays per game average, turning 30 double plays in 54 games.
► Uniform Watch 2014: Ball State enters the week with a 7-1 record in its white uniform, a 10-5 mark in its black uniform, a 1-4 ledger in its grey uniform and a 0-1 mark in its red tops ... The Cardinals are expected to wear their black uniforms for Sunday’s twinbill versus Kent State.